Quack! Quack! Quack! It's showtime!
Like clockwork, we have daily shows of the new off-Broadway hit, "Duck Parade." Generally, there are three performances: Early morning, a mid-afternoon matinee and a final show in the late afternoon. (What would the unions say about this schedule?)
Taking cues from their friends at the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, our flock of 35+ wild Mallards, treks up the hill from Shadow Lake, usually single-file, to dine on corn and grains left untouched by other bird visitors. The performances play out under Big Mama Cedar, our primary bird feeding station. Even though the tree is like a hotel to many animals, there's no Red Carpet like the one the Peabody ducks waddle over!
While they feed, they remain alert and wary of the presence of others. It's taken them many months to relax enough for us to not regularly frighten them. Whenever they spook, they launch off in one big blast and quickly glide to the safety of Shadow Lake.
Our cast starts assembling in September. Though we may have a few spring hatchlings on the lake already, the primary flock is composed of migratory birds that have learned about the banquet table at Big Mama Cedar. They hang out for several months until it grows too cold and stormy, then they head down to warmer weather in the Valley.
One of their more spectacular and curious reprises occurs near dusk. The birds don't remain on the lake at night and sleep elsewhere. When the light reaches a point of near blurry darkness, with a little glow remaining in the pine tops, the ducks begin to chatter incessantly. All of the sudden there's a unified hush, followed by a lightening fast water launch and they head southeast. There's an occasional late flier worried that they're left behind, but one can easily set their watch to their grand finale.
(Photo: Duck Parade under Big Mama Cedar)